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Anti-Flag at Majestic Theatre, 3 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Friday, December 20, 2019

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These are days that seem tailor made for Anti-Flag.

The Pittsburgh punk band has been relentlessly topical and politically outspoken throughout its 30-plus years together. And it's been critical of all sides, including former U.S. President Barack Obama during his tenure.

But these days of Trump, impeachment and a pending election make things particularly fertile for the quartet, whose next album, "20/20 Vision," is due out Jan. 17. There's a bit of calm before the storm now, but the group will be flying its flag, proudly, during the new year...

For the first time ever in its music, Anti-Flag addresses a U.S. president by name, kicking off "20/20 Vision" with a sound bite from one of Donald Trump's 2016 campaign rallies, in North Carolina. "We've wanted our songs to stay relevant in the future," singer-guitarist Justin Sane (nee Geever) explains by phone. "We think in terms of Woody Guthrie; 'This Land is Your Land' as relevant today as when he wrote it, and we've always tried to stay in that spirit. But with this record we were like, 'Look, Donald Trump IS the problem, so we have to go directly at the problem.' You could say he's a symptom of a larger problem and I believe that's true, but he IS the symptom. He's a symbol of authoritarianism the country has moved towards, trying to roll back civil rights, LGBT rights. So we start with a sound clip of Donald Trump, and from there we tried to move forward with the record and present a different kind of vision... where we do away with divisiveness and envision a new economic system and move away from this oligarchy people are living in."

For the video for its new single, "Unbreakable," Anti-Flag collaborated with a group of Nigerian teens called the Critics Company who have been using their smart phones to make short science fiction and have become a viral sensation, championed by "Star Wars" series runner JJ Abrams among others. "Their work just connected with us so hard because they're doing this stuff in such a DIY spirit -- like punk rock DIY. It was interesting to see these kids from a culture so completely different from ours but then to see their work and be reminded so much of ourselves when we were younger and starting out. It really excited us so our bass player (Chris "#2" Barker) reached out to them, not thinking they would have any idea who we were and they said, 'Well, send us a song' and we did a Skype call and it was so cool. They were like, 'We love this song! This describes our struggle!' I think it's been one of the most fun and exciting music video collaborations we've ever had."

With the new album and the presidential election, Anti-Flag is looking towards a busy year in 2020 -- though it will be in Europe first, during January and February, before coming back to North America. "I feel like we're going to be on the road this year a lot more than we have been," Sane says. "We're always trying to figure out how to get to other parts of the world we haven't been to," Sane says. "We're pushing to try to do that this year, as much as we can. We'll see what opportunities are out there and what we put together."

Anti-Flag performs as part of Black Christmas with Suicide Machines, Esham, Mustard Plug and more on Saturday, Dec. 21 at the Majestic Theatre, Detroit. Doors at 6 p.m. $30 advance, $35 day of show. 313-833-9700 or majesticdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.majesticdetroit.com

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